Lights, camera, livestream: A sneak peek into this year’s Castilleja play


Castilleja Theater presents their 2021 US play called The Wolves.

This year’s Castilleja Upper School play is “The Wolves,” a riveting story about the experiences of an all-girls soccer team as they grapple with tragedy and the challenges of being a teen girl in a highly competitive environment. Although the theatre department was given the option to try and put on “High Fidelity,” Castilleja’s first Zoom-sical (in-person last fall), it was rehearsed and performed online for safety reasons. This semester, the cast has been given the chance to rehearse and perform in person in the Chapel Theater.

According to Ms. Hanson, the Upper School theatre teacher and director of “The Wolves,” the current hope is that the cast will perform live on the Chapel Theater stage, while the performance will be live-streamed to audience members. Both Ms. Hanson and Ms. Matsutomo, the technical director for “The Wolves,” want to give the cast the chance to be able to perform live no matter what.

When asked about her directing process, Ms. Hanson said that her take on directing has changed and shifted more towards the technical process of the show because of the new performance format. She said that “it takes some of the energy that I would normally have with the actors and puts it on something else that we’re all just learning about.” Despite the technical process taking up more of her time as a director, Ms. Hanson is excited to work on “The Wolves” since “teenage girls aren’t usually at the center of the story,” and she’s looking forward to unpacking the nuances and challenges of the play as a director as well.

Cast members span all the grades in the Upper School, so everyone is being very cautious to ensure that this performance remains safe and COVID-19 compliant. Because the cast members are from all different grades and therefore cohorts, one cast member getting sick endangers the entire Upper School, not just a certain cohort. Since the entire school’s safety is at risk, 6 feet of social distancing is required at all times, and masks are mandatory as well.

However, getting the play’s actors to rehearse and perform in person and live has not come without its challenges, and, according to Ms. Hanson, there have been “so many obstacles. It’s almost laughable, but we will make it happen.” Ms. Hanson and Ms. Matsutomo worked with Ms. Layendecker, the Associate Head of School, and Ms. Surface, the Director of Sports Performance and Health Services, to create a safe plan for the play to be in person during last winter, but nevertheless, the cast and creative team have still encountered many obstacles. Even after being given the go-ahead-to-rehearse-in-person, challenges such as inconclusive COVID-19 tests and dealing with rainy weather have come up, causing several rehearsals to be canceled.

As for the Upper School cast and creative team of “The Wolves,” they are looking forward to being able to develop a close cast and make good memories during this production. Many members of the cast have been part of previous Castilleja performances, and although this style of production is new, it’s a challenge that they are excited to take on. Similar to Ms. Hanson, their approach to managing the cast and acting has changed.

For Laura Schusser ‘22, the assistant stage manager, her role has moved to more organizing and scheduling rather than helping the actors backstage and supporting them. Ella Lewis ‘21, who plays the role of #14 in “The Wolves,” has said the in-person format of rehearsal has made it “better to bounce off other people’s choices” and has made her less self-conscious because she isn’t staring at herself on a Zoom screen while performing.

Many are excited about how the play centers around Castilleja’s demographic of teenage girls and the aspect of the play that explores the “juicy and not so favorable details on a team of girls” in Lewis’ words. The intersection between theatre and sports in this play is another facet that people are interested in exploring as well as the team dynamic of the play and being able to draw parallels between the play and their own lives.

Currently, the cast of “The Wolves” is rehearsing for the final performance of the play on March 24, 25th, and 26th, and both the cast and faculty are taking great lengths to keep everything safe. The entire cast is putting in hard work and is dedicated to making this unique performance a memorable one, so be sure to grab tickets for it when the performances roll around!